Risotto is one of those dishes that people think is really difficult so they never attempt it. I, on the other hand, think it is one of the easiest and most versatile dishes one can make. I was not sure about risotto being gluten free but then I found actual gluten free risotto at the store; we were in luck. I did make the dish a bit different then Marcella does; I added more butternut squash and I kept the clams in their shells as I thought they were really beautiful. Served with a bit of wild arugula tossed with lemon juice and a little olive oil, this makes a perfect gluten free meal.
- Turn oven on to 350°. Lay the diced squash on a baking sheet covered with foil. Pour in 1/2 cup water and put in the oven. Cook for 20 minutes or until soft. When cool, drain, then set aside.
- Pour 1/3 cup water into a shallow saucepan, put in clams, cover, and turn on heat to high. Look in on clams after 1 minute, stirring them around. As soon as they open their shells, transfer them to a bowl. Keep heat going under pan, moving quickly to retrieve any clam that has opened up. Line a strainer with a paper towel and set it over a small bowl. Pour pan juices and any juice in bowl of clams through the strainer. Let the clams steep in the strained juices until ready to add to the risotto.
- Pour 2 quarts of water into a saucepan and bring to a low boil, turn down the heat. Pour oil into a heavy 4–6-quart saucepan, add leeks and scallions, and turn on heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring from time to time, until they are soft and slightly golden.
- Add half the squash together with some salt and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, slightly smash using a potato masher. Add thyme and stir all the ingredients together, set aside in a small bowl.
- Add rice to the saucepan, that still has the left over flavors from the squash, turning it to coat well. Add half the wine, steadily stir the rice, and when all the wine has bubbled away, add the remaining half. Continue stirring to keep rice moving away from bottom and sides of pan.
- Pour clam juices, through a strainer, into the risotto. Continue to stir until all the liquid has evaporated, then add a ladleful or two of the simmering water. Stir constantly, adding simmering water by the ladleful whenever the rice begins to dry out, threatening to stick to the pan. In about 15 minutes, when the rice is still hard and chalky to the bite, stir in the squash mixture. Continue to cook, stirring steadily and replenishing the water when necessary, until rice has lost its chalky consistency and is tender, but still firm, to the bite. Do not let rice dry out completely when you are near the end, keeping its final consistency loose and flowing.
- Add the remaining squash pieces and the clams, stirring them quickly into the risotto. Add the grated pecorino. Remove pan from heat and stir.
- Taste and correct for seasoning. Serve at once.
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